The cave named "La Grotta del Gelo", literally translates as "The Ice Cave", is undoubtedly the most famous on Etna. It is a cave of lavic origin situated on the northern slope of the volcano, at an altitude of about 2100 metres. The main characteristic of this cave is that it is the only one on Etna where you can find ice all year round. For this reason, it is regarded as the most southern glacier in Europe. The best period to go visit it is surely in late Spring, because that's when the outer snow melts and allows access to the cave. Once inside, you can admire the marvellous ice-sculptures, and since the floor of the cave is totally covered in ice, it is advisable that you use hooks.
The starting point of the trail is at the refuges Ragabo or Brunek. This is situated on Mareneve street, which is pretty close to Linguaglossa. From Catania you should take the highway A18, then take the exit "Fiumefreddo di Sicilia" and go towards Linguaglossa.
In front of the refuge there is a narrow street that can be passed through by car. It leads to . If you are tireless travellers, you can leave the car at the refugew and walk 2 more km in the pine tree wood. The beginning of the track goes through , that leaving on the ground . Here, as in other places on Etna, between the ability of .
, before we encounter . Along the path, .
At about halfway up the track we get to the, where you can also find a small resting area . We don't have enough time to visit this cave, so we decide to keep on walking in the woods, where we encounter the sign to the . Unfortunately we also have to skip this cave and keep on going. Once out of the woods, we walk through the last part of the track until : on the left you go towards the refuge Timpa Rossa, on the right towards the Monte Spagnolo. To reach "The Ice Cave", and climb up the lava flows .
After a few metres we encounter a sign for the Grotta dei Lamponi, literally "the raspberry cave" (the name is due to the fact that there are a few raspberry bushes at the entrance of the cave).
The flow we are walking through is unique on Etna, for the that which is characteristic of Hawaiian volcanoes. We wonder what is doing into the middle of this lavic desert and we continue . We walk for another few metres and we encounter the famous , that takes its name from the original lavic structures that form it. We are now pretty close to The Ice Cave. Just before we reach it we , which can't be explored without speleological equipment.
A few hundred metres more and then After more than 10 km and almost 500 metres of difference in level, we meet the entrance to the cave!!! The amount of snow in front of the entrance makes it difficult to go down, but with the help of the guys from the CAI (Alpine Italian Club) we manage to enter, and what we see is simply outstanding! You can also download more pictures: file "GrottaDelGelo.zip". We exit the cave, have lunch and then we go back, exhausted but happy for the experience. We returned to the car 9 hours after we had left.
A special thank you to the guys from Catania CAI (Italian Alpine Club) that we have met along the way, for the help the have provided during the entrance to the cave. Thanks also to Alessio and Giusy that have allowed us to put into practice and to document this excursion.